Every once in a while I venture away from campus at lunch time to grab a quick bite. Don’t get me wrong… we have great food here at Belmont University, but sometimes you just crave the finer things, you know… like a Big Mac. Today was one of those days. I joined the other 68 million people around the world who ate at the Golden Arches. (Not kidding. That’s the average daily total.) We have one of those fancy drive-thrus here in Nashville that allows people to form two lines when ordering their food. I’m not sure it speeds things up at all, but it gives the perception of doing so. I took the lane less traveled in the hope that it would make all the difference.
After ordering, there is always that awkward moment of wondering which car should blend back into line first. There was a gap in the line and so I eased ahead. And then I saw him coming… the guy behind me got out of his car, walked up beside me, and asked me to roll down the window. First, let me describe his car. Most of it was dark blue. All of it was dented. The muffler was held on by a wire and it smoked like those mosquito trucks that used to drive around my neighborhood when I was a kid. He had to open the door to order his food because the driver’s window had long been sealed up with duct-tape. To be honest, he didn’t look any better. His clothes were filthy, his teeth (what was left of them) were yellow, and his hair was grey. His ensemble was highlighted by an over-stretched tank top.
With a little fear and trepidation, I rolled down the window. He began… “I’m not asking you for anything, I don’t need any money, I just wanted to tell you about how these lines work.” He wasn’t mad. He wasn’t belligerent. He wasn’t stressed. He just honestly wanted me to know how things work. I wanted to tell him that this was not my first visit to McDonalds. “Not my first rodeo” kind of thoughts were going through my head. But I let him say his piece, thanked him for letting me know, and then I moved ahead to the window to pay. The employee wanted to know if the stranger wanted money or if he had bothered me. I told her not at all… “he was just trying to be helpful.”
We can learn a few things when we choose to be students of life. No, I didn’t need instruction on how to navigate the drive-thru lane. But I did allow myself to learn a few things. First, sometimes people are made to feel valued when we extend the simple courtesy of listening to them. Second, relationships based on an exchange of ideas are much better than those filled with fear, anger, and resentment. Third, we can learn from most anyone else if we assume the posture of a learner and not a know-it-all. Fourth, sometimes we need to move out of our comfortable, cloistered lives in order to be reminded of a greater world filled with people very different from ourselves, but equally valued in the eyes of God.
One other McDonald’s fun fact… there is only one place in the lower 48 states that is more than 100 miles away from a McDonald’s. It’s a barren plain somewhere in South Dakota. Wow, I’m glad I live in Nashville…